Hasty email from a girlfriend: ‘You must draw under the Westway – it’s nuts!!!! Get a bit of that ganja in your lungs and you may even enjoy it. Wear Converse and clothes with labels (not M&S) and a few cans of spray paint in pink/purple and silver. Forget Isobel and call yourself IZZY much more impressive in metre high letters. Probly to be on the safe side a couple of rubbers would be a good idea too!!!! Sounds Fun!!!’
So far I have been offered weed, cigarettes and coffee but not sex, solvents or alcohol. I don’t have any Converse. My labels today are Clarks, Muji, H&M, the Israeli army and, to keep out the cold, Max Mara and black opaques from M&S.
I draw Michael while he talks and gesticulates. He did three years’ service with the Israeli army and translates the care label on my military jacket for me. It dates from 1972, the year before the Yom Kippur War. I point to some damage in the fabric. ‘A bullet?’ I ask. ‘A needle,’ he says.
Gusty wind. I use two perfect clementines as weights but my drawing paper goes flying and one clementine rolls thirty feet away. I bustle after my drawings but leave the clementine, a point of gold on the asphalt.
On the other side of
Portobello Road, a man without a mobile phone is waiting by a poster that says:
Space FOR EVERYONE
Room to PERFORM.
He sits on a bollard, stands, sighs, stares, walks around, sits. I draw him over and over again. He waits for more than an hour, disappears behind a wall, presumably to pee, reappears, walks away.
Oh Christ, what’s that on my paper? Coffee? Birdshit?
A statuesque Jamaican in ankle-length fitted black coat and wide trilby, carrying a heavy laundry bag, returns my look with penetrating black eyes, swaggers past, dumps the bag and elegantly pisses through the railings into the unresisting bushes of Portobello Green. Why don’t I draw this? He turns, retrieves his bag, strides off and scoops up the clementine. He is the most beautiful creature I see all day.
Two children cycle up and stare at my hazy, hard-to-read sketches of people in movement. ‘Wicked,’ says one. ‘Stay and let me draw you,’ I plead, but they are gone.
A phrase comes into my head: ‘to my heart’s content.’
Oh God, a noisy lopsided drunk with can of lager. Please let him not notice me. But in this asphalt-coloured coat I am invisible. He accosts a couple of stray smokers instead. ‘
,’ he sings. ‘Glory glory hallelujah.’ New York, New York
I get two paper cuts. Not enough blood to draw with.